The back is broken of the heavy lifting. Howard and mine, too. But we are in. Branch Hill allotments are near unrecognisable. The wildness is dimmed. But the organic gardeners are gathering and this will soon change.
We are greeted at the gate by stacks of sacks. We have ordered 50 bags of “heavy horse manure” for the plot: 25 each for Mary and us. The new allotment soil is thin and sandy. It will need love and work – and worms.
We have three giant ‘dumpy bags’ of soil conditioner (a mix of manure, composted bark and grit) to be shovelled into barrows and wheeled to the plot. Howard is the perfect companion. And within a day or so it is done.
We lay three longish piles through Mary’s part of the plot. We stack bags near her seedling beds for easy access. It is good work.
I have spotted a couple of baby red orache, a 1in sunflower and, of course, nasturtiums on the stripped-bare bank next door. They were blown from our precious previous life. I gather them gently, re-home them on the plot. Something of the past to carry forward.
We dig, we hoe, we rake. We lay a new path. We try to stand up straight. By the end of Sunday of the early May bank holiday, the summer plot is starting to take shape.
The work will largely be about soil now. Around us, people are returning with leggy seedings from their windowsills to be given their forever home.
We are waiting on pea sticks and bean poles, so I sort through sacks of seed. I want the first sowing to be from the crops we saved from late last year: Hopi Red amaranth, calendula and climbing nasturtium. There is our coriander to be grown again for its delicate flower.
By mid Monday, Mary is set. Her garlic and broad beans are in. First job done.
Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com